Michael Howard receives grant for new leadership program

September 13, 2016

Michael Howard, PhD, Vice President of Education and Research selected as recipient of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant

Michael Howard receives grant for new leadership program

Madisonville, KY – Sept.  13, 2016Michael Howard, PhD, Vice President of Education and Research at Baptist Health Madisonville was recently selected as a grant recipient for The Culture of Health Leaders program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

The foundation selected more than 150 participants across multiple fields and professions to join four new leadership programs designed to help build a Culture of Health in the U.S. The intent is to make good health more equitable for all by developing strong leaders who collaborate on innovative solutions to persistent health challenges. 

“When Baptist Health offered me the opportunity to come back to Madisonville to work, one of the most exciting and compelling reasons it appealed to me was that I would be in a position to make a difference in my hometown,” stated Howard. “I think we can be an example of what rural communities can become.   Education and community wellness are primary drivers of economic growth, vitality and quality of life in any community.  My position at Baptist Health Madisonville and the support and encouragement the organization gives me provides me with the opportunity to work in both areas.”

The Culture of Health Leaders program reaches beyond the traditional realm of health and health care to engage 40 people from any field or profession who want to create a healthier society. The first class represents fields as diverse as architecture, education, urban farming, the arts and many others, and reaches across private, public and nonprofit sectors.

These leaders will collaborate to address persistent health problems that have eluded those working within a single sector, seeking solutions that can emerge from the wisdom of their own communities. As individuals, they will have an opportunity to step back from their day-to-day work, find new inspiration and advance both their individual leadership skills and their commitment to social change. The program is co-led by the National Collaborative for Health Equity and CommonHealth ACTION.

“These programs are all about cross-sector collaboration, about disrupting how we define and how we build a comprehensive Culture of Health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “This group of leaders embodies the diversity, tenacity, and inspiration it will take to make good health a reality for all.”

Participants—many working in cross-disciplinary teams—are addressing the most pressing issues in health and equity, such as housing, food systems and transgender health. They are taking on such community-based projects as needle exchanges, oral health in low-income communities and the impact of mass incarceration on children’s health. Many leaders are working on issues that are particularly timely and urgent, including the water crisis in Flint, Mich., and community health in Baton Rouge, La.

The leaders will also receive professional coaching, mentoring, networking and an advanced leadership development curriculum led by top academic and social change leaders in order to develop the skills needed to work across sectors and impact their communities.

“The Culture of Health Leaders program from the RWJF is a revolutionary idea in public health.  Participating will help me learn what I can do to more effectively engage local community organizations and resources to help make our families healthier and our communities stronger and more prosperous,” added Howard.

Selected through a competitive process that drew many applications, participants receive a stipend to support their participation. Some are eligible for additional funds to support a bold community project. They will continue working or studying full-time in their home communities and apply their new knowledge and leadership in their careers.





Culture of Health Leaders is one of four new leadership development programs launched this year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and represent a four-year, multimillion dollar investment. The programs join five existing leadership programs in advancing RWJF’s legacy of supporting the development and diversity of leaders impacting health. The 2017 application period for the new programs will open in January.